Carton and Brisbane are two clubs intertwined as they prepare for their bottom-of-the-table clash on Saturday afternoon.
They finished 17th and 18th respectively in 2015, 16th and 18th in 2017 and currently sit together on the bottom again.
Both have made recent coaching changes, bringing someone in from Hawthorn (Brendon Bolton & Chris Fagan), and both have committed to total rebuilds.
Brisbane continue to show signs they’re a little further ahead, producing stirring wins over Hawthorn and Fremantle by committing to an eye-catching, attacking game style.
The Blues, on the other hand, have copped a few big losses at poor times, leading to a lot more media criticism than their northern counterparts.
Despite that, Carlton has taken it up to Port Adelaide, Collingwood, Sydney and Geelong in the last six weeks in a massive show of improvement.
Both teams are showing signs they’re heading somewhere, but are still a few years away.
Breaking down their lists, which team is more likely to drag themselves off the canvas and start climbing the ladder?
The Future/Current A-grade Locks
Carlton: Kade Simpson, Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty & Charlie Curnow (4)
Brisbane: Dayne Beams, Dayne Zorko & Harris Andrews (3)
These guys speak for themselves.
Brisbane has a pair of A-graders in the midfield with Beams and Zorko, which takes a lot of pressure off their younger guys.
Andrews could be the All-Australian full-back to this stage of the year, but is the only young Lion you can definitively call an A-grader.
The Blues have three guys in this category who’ll be around for a long time, which sets them up nicely.
Docherty received All-Australian honours last year, while Cripps and Curnow have flourished under the spotlight in 2018.
Simpson at 34 is coming to the end, but is somehow still in career-best form.
The Potential A-graders
Carlton: Paddy Dow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Harry McKay, Zac Fisher, Lochie O’Brien, Caleb Marchbank & Jacob Weitering (7)
Brisbane: Hugh McCluggage, Cameron Rayner, Jarrod Berry, Darcy Gardiner, Alex Witherden, Eric Hipwood & Charlie Cameron (7)
You may look at a few of these guys and wonder what they’ve done to be considered potential A-graders, but anyone taken with a top 10 pick in the last three years has been put in this category for the time being.
For the Blues, that means Dow, Petrevksi-Seton, McKay, O’Brien and Weitering fall into this category. Only Dow has really shown he has the makings of a star.
Weitering and McKay need time as key position players, while Petrevski-Seton hasn’t had a great second year.
All three could still make it as it’s far too early to put a line through their potential, especially McKay who’s kicked 12 goals in six games.
Fisher has shown the class, speed and poise of an elite midfielder and could get there sooner than people think, if he can put on some muscle, while Marchbank simply needs some continuity.
McCluggage and Witherden have done enough for the Lions to suggest they’re going to be stars in time if the club can put the right pieces around them.
Hipwood continues to show he has the ability to take over a game and while he’s behind Curnow at the moment, he still has the potential to become an A-grade forward.
Last year’s number one draft pick, Rayner, was always going to be a long-term prospect, but has shown glimpses as well.
The Senior Core
Carlton: Marc Murphy, Matthew Kreuzer, Sam Rowe, Liam Jones, Ed Curnow, Dale Thomas, Matthew Wright & Levi Casboult (8)
Brisbane: Luke Hodge, Mitch Robinson, Stefan Martin, Daniel Rich, Josh Walker, Allen Christensen & Ryan Lester (7)
These guys are there to lead and help the younger crop survive the early phase of their careers.
Carlton’s key defensive pillars sit in this group, meaning they may need to find replacements long term for Rowe and Jones.
Kreuzer, Murphy and Ed Curnow will be around for a while longer yet, but the rest may be replaced by younger versions sooner rather than later.
The Lions acquired the services of Luke Hodge to be an on-field coach and the impact he’s had on the likes of Witherden and McCluggage has been telling.
Robinson, Rich and Christensen are young enough to be around for a bit longer, while Martin will need to be replaced in a couple of years.
The Long Term Prospects (players who will be around for at least 3 more seasons)
Carlton: Jack Silvagni, Matthew Kennedy, Darcy Lang, Lachie Plowman, Harrison Macreadie, David Cuningham, Tom Williamson, Jarrod Pickett, Andrew Phillips, Pat Kerr & Ciaran Byrne (11)
Brisbane: Ben Keays, Nick Robertson, Cedric Cox, Daniel McStay, Lewis Taylor, Oscar McInerney, Rhys Mathieson, Tom Cutler, Zac Bailey & Jacob Allison (10)
This group is the most important one. If you can convert those from this group into consistent contributors, then your list will start to thrive.
These are the younger players who we’ve seen enough of to say they’ll at least be around into the 2020s.
McStay has shown signs he could be a quality key position player down back alongside Andrews and rookie McInerney is worth persisting with up forward.
Taylor hasn’t quite reached the heights of a NAB Rising Star winner, but is still a dynamic player and the likes of Robertson and Mathieson provide some toughness.
The Blues, meanwhile, have a lot of question marks on this group, but also a lot of talent.
Byrne was in red-hot form before tearing his ACL in 2016, while Williamson was Carlton’s best performed first year player in 2017 – injuries have ended his 2018 campaign.
They’ve invested in youngsters from other clubs with Lang, Kennedy, Plowman, Pickett and Phillips and while none have set the house on fire, they’re all players that will be part of the framework of their 2020 depth.
Of the two sides, Carlton appears to have the greater potential in this category, while the Lions have a few guys who are already proven commodities.
Making up the Numbers & the Fresh Meat
Carlton: Angus Schumacher, Tom De Koning, Cameron Polson, Jarrod Garlett, Sam Kerridge, Jed Lamb, Aaron Mullett, Cameron O’Shea, Matthew Lobbe, Nick Graham, Matt Shaw, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Kym LeBois & Alex Silvagni (14)
Brisbane: Toby Wooller, Brandon Starcevich, Connor Ballenden, Corey Lyons, Jack Payne, Tom Bell, Marco Paparone, Rohan Bewick, Ryan Bastinac, Liam Dawson, Archie Smith, Jack Frost, Claye Beams, Matt Eagles, Mitchell Hinge & Jake Barrett (16)
These are the players that either need to be turned over on the list to make room for newer talent or players who simply haven’t had a chance to prove themselves yet.
On the Carlton side of things, both De Koning and Schumacher have impressed at VFL level, while Polson has had a few chances, but is yet to show whether he should be kept around beyond his rookie contract.
The rest are there to prop up the younger core of players until Stephen Silvagni can replace them with shiny new toys. Expect the Blues to delist another 8-10 players this year.
The Lions have the same number here, but have a few more in the unproven category than the Blues. The likes of Wooller and Lyons have impressed at NEAFL level.
They still have a number of players that need to be turned over at the end of the season and a few others like Smith, Bell and Frost that may be given another chance, but don’t appear to be in the long-term planning.
This game in Round 16 of 2018 is a tiny battle in the long war and the Lions have a pretty good record against the Blues, winning four of their last five encounters.
In the scheme of things, the only thing that matters about this game is how it affects the draft order of both teams.
As of right now, which team do you think is in the better position?